Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jimmy Page was engrossed in voiceless Led Zeppelin trio; speculative band lineup quashed because singer's introduction was 'premature,' Page says in interview

John Paul Jones has used his ample media opportunities in recent months to narrate his version of what ever became of that project he'd promised in 2008, a band with Jason Bonham and Jimmy Page. Ever since Jones has been showcased as a starring member of Them Crooked Vultures, his newfound podium has afforded him the luxury of pronouncing that he and the others "couldn't agree on singers" and so the band "fell by the wayside." This, in turn, leads Jones to change the topic and discuss matters at hand: namely, Them Crooked Vultures.

Bonham has also talked here and there about his participation in that band, but likewise, he is more excited to discuss his next offering, Black Country, and not focus on what was and what should never be.

Even the once-rumored singer auditioning for a spot in a Page-Jones-Bonham lineup, Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge, has opened up on the subject of those rehearsals together in 2008 -- to, no less. Once reluctant to speak about the subject publicly, he recounted on Dec. 16, 2009, what it was like to have written new material with members of Led Zeppelin:
"There were two, a couple songs that I remember. For me, that was the biggest thrill because these were songs and pieces of music that no one had heard. And I'm standing in a room, and I'm putting my melodies and lyrics to it. For me as an artist, I don't think anything will ever compare to the feeling that I got from those moments. It felt like you were kind of a part of history for a few minutes there. It was just amazing. It's hard to even put into words, Steve, it really is."

The one voice that was missing on the subject for just as long was Page's. Now, he's given Mojo magazine the cover story for its February 2010 issue, and he's also contributed an interview for the February issue of Uncut. He's detailed his ideas for the genesis of a band with Jones and Bonham that would be missing a voice of its own.

Page admits for the first time that when he was rehearsing his three-piece band, he found it exciting to experiment with their combined sound and content to see what direction it would carry them -- even, it seems, if it meant they would remain an instrumental unit.

In his interview with Phil Alexander for Mojo, Page says he thinks Kennedy "is a really fine singer." What stopped them from proceeding beyond the rehearsal stage, the guitarist proclaims, was a nagging feeling that no vocalist should have been introduced until after the music had first developed further.

"We hadn't really had the time to bring what the three of us had to fruition," Page opines. "I felt that once we'd done that, then that would have been the time to bring in a singer." He says all they needed was "more time," even "another two weeks."

However, forcing a singer in at the stage they did was "premature," he says. "I felt it was somewhat like putting the cart before the horse, because it was bringing in an unknown into an environment of three known elements."

Page says a lot more in that interview, and a little more in the Uncut interview. But first, let's place all the recent remarks -- from him and elsewhere -- in their proper context.

Steven Tyler's Led Zeppelin Audition

Recently, I mentioned that Jimmy Page was sitting in with Aerosmith back in 1990. I even embedded a slew of footage shot of them rehearsing together. Somehow, this stage-shot video leaked of the band that loved the Yardbirds rehearsing with one man who played guitar for the Yardbirds.

It's illuminating to witness as the musicians break down seldom revived Yardbirds chestnuts like "Think About It" and "I Ain't Got You," and it's just as insightful to watch as Jimmy Page teaches Joe Perry and Brad Whitford which proper chord should be played in the closing measures of "Immigrant Song." From that grainy video with overloaded audio, we can glean what this encounter was like from a better vantage point than a fly on the wall of the Marquee Club would have had.

Advance the clock 18 years from those rehearsals, and we're in another London rehearsal room where Tyler is once again about to come face to face with Page.

This rehearsal room has been occupied by Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham. It's October 2008, a good 10 to 11 months after the one-off Led Zeppelin reunion concert. There has been talk all throughout the intervening months that Led Zeppelin would go on tour as soon as Robert Plant had completed his obligations with Alison Krauss.

Freshly blabbed onto the public record earlier in the month was a story, courtesy of Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider, that Page, Jones and Bonham were considering going out with a singer other than Robert Plant, if they had to. Snider named Myles Kennedy, the lead singer of Alter Bridge, saying he was a "kid [who] can sing the s--- out of Zeppelin."

Bearing these factors in mind, it was probably acceptable that Steven Tyler thought he was being considered as a Plant replacement in a revamped Led Zeppelin touring lineup. And, if recently disclosed behind-the-scenes tidbits are to be believed, that's what Tyler thought.

He expected to be singing more of the same, "Rock and Roll" and "Bring It On Home" and the like. And, for a little while, he apparently got to do that. As reported only this month, Tyler told VH1 Radio Networks:
"I got to sing every song from 'Black Dog' up and down, and I'll never forget it as long as I live."

Led Zeppelin biographer Mick Wall reveals, in the 2009 update of "When Giants Walked the Earth," that Tyler was sick and his voice was hoarse on the two days of his rehearsals. Add in Joe Perry's secondhand account that his Aerosmith bandmate apparently couldn't remember many of the words to the Led Zeppelin songs they tried to play, and you get a picture of why Page apparently used the word "shambolic" to describe Tyler's audition.

The vibe of the audition only worsened when the idea of new music was proposed, Wall reports. His book, the latest in a long list of Led Zeppelin biographies Page has denounced, says that when Page, Jones and Bonham played some of their new material to him, Tyler announced he wasn't into it. Playing the part of the pessimistic A&R man in Tom Petty's "Into the Great Wide Open," Tyler said he didn't hear a single.

Further, he suggested that Page and company would be better off commercially if he could introduce some material he'd been working on with his co-collaborator, Marti Frederiksen. Wall writes:
A well-known gun-for-hire musician, producer and songwriter whose prowess as a hitmaker for rock artists like Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne and others has made him a 21st-century music industry star, Frederiksen was not the kind of behind-the-scenes worker-bee likely to appeal to Jimmy Page. As a result, according to one insider who does not wish to be named here, "Jimmy never said a word when Tyler came out with this stuff, just told his staff to get him a plane ticket home. And that was the end of that."

Despite the allegedly abrupt ending of their interactions, Tyler's presence in the rehearsal room was quickly blurted to the U.K. Daily Mail tabloid. In an exclusive report, Katie Nicholl characterized the musicians' interactions as "secret rehearsals" and also quoted an unnamed source as informing her:
"Steve was jamming with Zep. That had a great time but Steve kept fluffing his lines. He got quite flustered about it."

Only a few days later, Aerosmith's Brad Whitford commented on the news, saying that Page and Tyler primarily "did it for fun." However, Whitford also said there was probably an ulterior motive: Their publicly disclosing Tyler's audition might have been a way to coax Robert Plant back into the fold, Whitford said. His theory certainly jibed with the comments from Dee Snider that Myles Kennedy's presence was a ploy to convince Plant they were serious about touring with or without him.

Around that time, both Jones and Bonham opened up publicly about their rehearsals but provided few details.

Bonham, in August 2008, was the first to confirm rumors that something might have been in the works with Page and Jones, doing so on a radio appearance. He didn't say anything was definite, just that he was hopeful. Leaving something to the imagination, Bonham didn't come forth with any information about whether or not any singers were involved at all.

Jones, breaking his silence two months later, also confirmed something was in the works: more specifically, a project that would lead to an album and a tour. And, he added, "the odd singer" was coming in. Again, leaving something to the imagination, Jones refused to confirm or deny any particular vocalist names.

But he didn't have to; both Tyler and Kennedy's names had been touted in the press by that point.

Jimmy Page's Additions to the Story recently published the first complete interview with Kennedy on the subject of his involvement in those rehearsals in 2008. He says his participation began when he received a text message from Jason Bonham, a mere acquaintance of his from several years earlier, inviting him to England:
"Basically, I get this text out of the blue. Hey, you know, can you give me a call? I have a favor to ask. And, next thing you know, I'm standing in a room with those guys. It was pretty surreal. ... I think Jason got the ball rolling, from what I understand and sold the idea to the guys. To this day, Jason -- I think about that quite often, that I owe so much to Jason. I'm so grateful that he helped get that thing going."

From Page's recent remarks about what went on in late 2008, the invitation to any singer at that point in time may have been precisely what halted the momentum, at least for Page alone. Addressing questions posed by Phil Alexander on an "afternoon just a few days before Christmas" in 2009, Page finally discloses what in his mind led to the collapse of that musical project one year earlier.

But they start by discussing Page's feelings about what happened not one but two years earlier, Led Zeppelin's reunion concert at the O2 arena in London on Dec. 10, 2007. Page says:
"I really enjoyed it. Actually, I've just been to Brazil, and it was constant: 'Why didn't you do more concerts than just the O2?' I've got to say that prior to the O2, people were resigned that we weren't going to do any more stuff. Afterwards, that changed, and it became a constant question, and fair enough."

Alexander asks whether there were indeed "plans to do more shows" afterward. Page says he expected there would be.

During the last four months of 2007, following the announcement that Led Zeppelin was to reunite for one concert, Page and Jones publicly downplayed the possibility of future activity following that one-off show. They consistently told people they were interested in focusing only on that one show and wouldn't even think about any others until the time came. That was their talking point to the public at the time.

Update: As Steve Thomson reminded me in a reactionary post on the Led Zeppelin discussion group For Badgeholders Only, Page did stray from this talking point in the December 2007 issue of Mojo magazine with the following rather memorable quotation:
"It's a bit silly not to [play further concerts] because there is such massive demand. It's a bit selfish to do just one show. If that's it, we probably shouldn't have taken the genie out of the bottle."
Here's what Page now tells Mojo:
"It was intimated way, way back, before we started rehearsals, that we would do more."

Oooh, the passive voice! Asked who intimated that, Page replies:
"The various managements along the way -- and at a point where it was mentioned at one of the rehearsals where all the members of the band were there. And it certainly wasn't denied. It certainly wasn't when it was being discussed along the way. We all knew that we were working towards the one show. There weren't other dates that were penciled in, but it was intimated that we were doing more."

So, Page got together in 2008 with Jones and Bonham and without Plant. It had been that way, too, during some of the concert rehearsals in the second half of 2007, whenever Plant was either saving his voice for the concert or absent while promoting the October release of his album Raising Sand with Krauss. So, for Page, Jones and Bonham to rehearse without Plant was not new or unprecedented. On the other hand, what music they were playing in 2008 was both new and, to some extent, unprecedented. Page comments:
"We'd played no new material on the way to the O2. It would have been quite disrespectful to do that. It would have been the wrong thing to do; it wasn't in the ethic of what we were doing, which was Led Zeppelin material. But now would be the time to bring out new material, just get together carrying on with this great buzz we've got, carry on playing and just see what we come up with.

"It would have been just like in the past or with any other band that you've got where you all get together and you come in, somebody's got material, somebody may not have so much material or whatever, or something just comes out of thin air -- and that's exactly how it was going. It was really, really good."

Alexander then asks Page to describe what the music sounded like. He obliges:
"... Led Zeppelin's music is known for riffs and the musical content of what is there as much as for the vocals and the lyrics. I was very keen to continue what had made us fire up when we were approaching the O2 show, but with no pressure. Even if we were doing a few days there and a few here, then we were coming up with more and more material.

"And the Zeppelin riffs have always been quite a major thing that have attracted people to the music. I was very keen to concentrate on that element, the musical content that all three of us were very capable of doing with the variety of it. I really wanted to do that."

Here's the important part. This is where Page starts explaining what his three-piece with Jones and Bonham had going:
"I wanted to get to a point of us recording it and along the way we would quite clearly have pockets of numbers that required singers, a guest vocalist or whatever it was. We had no singer in mind immediately to bring on board, so I felt it was somewhat like putting the cart before the horse, because it was bringing in an unknown into an environment of three known elements. And I thought it would be premature because we were coming up with so much material that was really vibrant, urgent, and it was scary. It wasn't scaring the pants off me; it was inspiring me."

Page stops, and Alexander interjects a question. Now that the topic of singers has been introduced, the interviewer asks about Myles Kennedy being "a potential choice of singer." Page replies:
"I wasn't keen on bringing singers in at that point. I was keen on getting more of the material that we were writing together. ... I was really keen on the instrumental side of what we were doing getting heard, mainly because the three of us had been working together, albeit playing Led Zeppelin numbers, but we had a different take on it. I felt that it was best to explore that before bringing in an unknown quantity into it, or somebody with a character voice and then all of a sudden we'd find ourselves going that way. I didn't see that that was necessarily the way to do it."

Around the same time as his Mojo interview, Page also spoke with Andrew Mueller for the February issue of Uncut and discussed some of the same topics. In that interview, he says:
"Led Zeppelin were known for the music, and I was keen to do something that was quite instrumental in its way, and then bring in singers along the line. But that was only an idea. You have ideas, sometimes they come off, and sometimes they don't."

Returning to the Mojo interview, Page takes us through a bit of a chronology and how he was feeling at the time. He references when "a statement [was] made that we were teaming up with Myles." Here, Page is probably referring to an unattributed remark carried by another U.K. tabloid, the Sun. It appeared Oct. 11, 2008, and said:
"LED ZEPPELIN are going ahead with their tour despite ROBERT PLANT's refusal to join them. I told you JIMMY PAGE, JOHN PAUL JONES and JASON BONHAM have been rehearsing with an unidentified US singer. I can now reveal the man in question is MYLES KENNEDY frontman with US rockers ALTER BRIDGE. And Zep are so pleased with him they have decided to take him on the tour, with Robert continuing to drag his heels."

Incidentally, the source of the above statement has never been disclosed. However, Page now reveals how he felt about that statement coming out:
"Then there was a statement made that we were teaming up with Myles -- who I think is a really fine singer -- but I thought the whole thing was really premature, because we hadn't really had the time to bring what the three of us had to fruition. I felt that once we'd done that, then that would have been the time to bring in a singer.

"I felt that I wanted to keep the whole of the project -- whatever the project was -- going and another two weeks of doing what we were doing would have told us what kind of a singer we were really looking for. Or it might not have done, but I felt it all needed more time. I didn't want to get to the point where I had a Hobson's Choice on something when I felt there was more substance."

At this point in the interview, Alexander reminds Page of the recurring explanation from Jones: that the band never materialized because they "couldn't agree on singers." Page reacts, encapsulating his final thoughts on the subject:
"I hadn't agreed on a singer, so we can't get into the area of singers in the plural, although what we had done along the way is basically jammed and allowed a couple of people to come in, but for me it wasn't one of those things where I was going, 'Oh, please be good so we can bring you on board.' I was really keen on building on what we had from the O2 and doing what we'd always done, which was making the music speak for itself. We could consider singers after that.

"I certainly don't think I would have felt comfortable if we'd proceeded the way we were going. I would have felt pushed into something and compromised. I don't know that John Paul Jones or Jason Bonham would have felt the same thing. But when it came to playing music, what we were doing was certainly happening; there's no doubt about that. People who saw us at the O2 would have known that. It's just a shame that they didn't get to see any more! It's somewhat disappointing.

"One of the key things to the point of the three of us playing together was that at least we knew where we were and hopefully where we could go musically within it, and that seemed enticing for me. The whole aspect of bringing in a singer or vocalists beyond the point of having a jam, or whatever it would be, was this juggernaut of politics that would accompany them, and I certainly wasn't ready for that."


Just as John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham are keen to put the past behind them and move on with their respective bands, Them Crooked Vultures and Black Country, so is Page. The past is the past, c'est la vie, "That's the Way," ever onward. He tells Phil Alexander in Mojo:
"It's a whole two years after the O2. I've realized that the most important thing for me now is to make some new music. I know how to do it, and that's what I'm going to do. As far as I'm concerned, now, I'm a year behind what I'm supposed to be doing, so that's what I have to do this coming year to make up for it."

Pressed for details about what he has in mind, Page is less forthcoming, out of a desire not to raise expectations or spoil surprises. He explains:
"I've never really been keen about saying what I'm doing because if I do, people start adding up some parts, and they already start making their minds up as to what it's going to be. Then, when they hear it, they go, 'Well, that's a disappointment.' I never did it with Led Zeppelin. I never told people what we were doing, and I've always tried to avoid it with everything else. I think it's a better way of doing things. There is a time and place for everything."

Page also tells Andrew Mueller in the February issue of Uncut:
"I'm very keen to do what I need to do right now. I've got definite plans for how I'm going to go about things, and what collaborations I want to do -- and it's not any one collaboration or any one particular set of circumstances. And I'm just going to go ahead and do that."

Again, he declines an invitation to expound on those "definite plans," and emphasizes the reason:
"I'd rather not, and I'll tell you why. If you start saying you're going to do this, or that, it's easy for people -- maybe even me -- to project what it's going to sound like, and I'd rather it comes as a bit more of a surprise."

Pressed by Mueller for some kind of clue, Page does relent and allow this:
"Without getting too specific, because I don't want to dig a hole for myself ... What I have currently is a relatively large folio, if you like -- and I do have ideas of how I want to make it manifest. And it isn't any one given set of circumstances. I don't want to give anyone any ideas anymore about what I want to try and do. The most important thing is to do it."

If publicists are correct, Steven Tyler will be back onstage with Aerosmith in a matter of time. Myles Kennedy is already recording a new album with Alter Bridge, but before they tour again, he'll be onstage singing for guitarist Slash, who'll be promoting his self-titled solo album due in April.

From the looks of it, bygones are bygones and everybody has a new project to pursue. For Jones, who's already released one album with Them Crooked Vultures, the goal at hand is to see if a follow-up album can be prepared by year's end. For Bonham, Black Country's debut disc could be out as early as this summer.

Exactly what will become of the music Page wants to unleash is the only thing remaining unknown. The release of his pictorial autobiography lies in the very near future, and live appearances are highly anticipated even if not exactly promised. Page says he intends to "be seen"; hopefully, he also doesn't mind being heard.


  1. Last time i saw Jimmy was in `1985 with the firm , I'd go to see him play all by himself , hurry up here today gone tomorrow

  2. Any word on the live Page Cuban shows?


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